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Jazeera journalist Fahmy wants Canada PM to press for his deportation

February 14, 2015

Al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy — just bailed after serving more than a year in an Egyptian jail — said Saturday he wanted the Canadian premier to call Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to secure his deportation after his co-defendant Peter Greste was sent home to Australia.

On Thursday, a court ordered that Fahmy, a dual Egyptian-Canadian national, and his colleague Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed be freed pending their retrial. They were released on Friday.

The ruling came after an appeals court overturned a previous jail sentence of up to 10 years handed down by a lower court that convicted them and their Australian colleague Peter Greste of aiding the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Greste has already been deported.

Fahmy, released after paying bail of $33,000 (28,950 euros), was told to renounce his Egyptian citizenship to secure his deportation, but still finds himself having to attend a retrial hearing on February 23.

On Saturday, Fahmy told AFP in an interview that he wanted a speedy deportation like Greste.

“We appreciate that the Canadian government has responded positively” through a social media campaign that urges Prime Minister Stephen Harper to call on Sisi to ask for his deportation, Fahmy said.

“But we are yet to see the prime minister call Sisi and demand my deportation.”

Fahmy said he intends “to engage with Egyptian officials personally” to know “why I haven’t been deported” like Greste.

The case of the three Al-Jazeera journalists, who were arrested in December 2013, has been a major source of embarrassment for Sisi as he seeks to shore up international support following a widely condemned crackdown on Egypt’s opposition.

– ‘Negligence’ by Jazeera –

Fahmy was highly critical of his Qatari-based employer, Al-Jazeera, which he said did not pay for his bail.

“The company conducted epic negligence of responsiblity in handling of the case by appointing lawyers with no proven track record who turned against the defendants in court,” he said.

“The handling of our case made our position more difficult.”

Fahmy has criticised Al-Jazeera previously too but the network has not commented on his remarks.

Fahmy, who has both Egyptian and Canadian nationality, renounced his Egyptian citizenship to benefit from a law that allows the deportation of foreign defendants, and under which Greste was released.

He said that he was asked by a security official to drop his Egyptian nationality in order to secure his release.

“The security official said that nationality is in the heart not a piece of paper,” Fahmy said, adding that the official said he could return to Egypt some day as a tourist and get his citizenship back.

But Fahmy said he was disappointed to find himself facing retrial despite renouncing his citizenship.

“My bags were packed but nobody called me… I saw the news that I’m going to court on TV,” a tired looking Fahmy said.

“It’s very hard for a prisoner to be told to leave prison and then the next day he finds out he is going to court.”

Fahmy said Ottawa was to some extent responsible for the delay in his deportation.

“I told the Canadians you cannot engage with emails and faxes and speak to the spokesman of the ministry. No! he said.

“You have to go and knock on the door and meet the prosecutor… they were just using channels that are not appropriate for this situation.”

– Cairo-Doha ‘cold war’-

Fahmy said he had been held in solitary confinement in the days after his initial arrest in December 2013, and called the experience like being “in hell”.

The three journalists were later moved to Cairo’s Tora prison along with 15 senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including the movement’s supreme guide, Mohamed Badie.

“The three of us were in the same cell — we called it the shoebox. It was very small but… we co-existed together, we are like brothers now,” Fahmy said.

Pointing to his right arm which he can’t raise, he said that medical negligence in the prison had left him with a “permanent disability”.

The three journalists were initially charged with spreading false news about Egypt and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

Their arrest came against the backdrop of deteriorating ties between Cairo and Doha, which backed the Muslim Brotherhood government of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Morsi was ousted by then army chief Sisi in July 2013.

“This case is partly about freedom of expression … however there is also a part of the case that is an ongoing cold war and score settling between Qatar and Egypt,” Fahmy said.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.